The power of music is undeniable, and evolutionary psychology has the challenge of producing a credible explanation for its ubiquity.
Professor Mithen convincingly rises to the task in this book, in which music is explained as `pre-verbal' language. (This is certainly a more compelling view than the idea of music being an accidental irrelevance, as some have proposed.)
Drawing from cognitive psychology, neurophysiology, archaeology, and primatology, Mithen carefully assembles the evidence for his theory. He includes an examination of the possible roles for music in sexual selection, socialisation, and spirituality.
His conclusion is elegant and satisfying : Homo Sapens' ancestors evolved a primitive music, which went on to form the core of Neanderthal communication. Homo Sapiens, however, subsequently evolved verbal communication; this left music partially redundant, but it retained for us its capacity to convey emotion.
Next time you find yourself serenading your loved one, this excellent book will help you to understand what you're doing, and why !